Prominent Alumni

Are we missing someone? If you know of a prominent former student of Victoria College during the Craigdarroch Castle years, please let us know. Send a brief description of the person’s accomplishments and, if possible, the years they attended the college. Click here to e-mail your suggestions.

By Bob Lane, VC ’38

1921-25 1926-29 1930-34 1935-39  1940-46

1921-1925 (top)
1921      Olive Heritage
Olive HeritageA member of Victoria’s well-known Wilson family, Olive Heritage finished two years at Victoria College and a year at the Provincial Normal School before teaching primary grades for two years. She completed a BA at the, then, fairly new UBC. On return to Victoria she taught at Girl’s Central School which later became part of Central Junior High School. On being named principal in 1961, she became the first woman to be a school principal in British Columbia.




1926-1929 (top)
1925       Jack Shadbolt
Jack ShadboltThe artist Jack Shadbolt attended the Provincial Normal School after his college years and taught art, including a 25-year career at the Vancouver School of Art. He traveled to London and New York while developing his own style of West Coast-influenced painting. An official Canadian war artist (1942-45), his pictures depicted many of war’s devastations. He practiced into his 80s by which time his work was internationally acclaimed and he was acknowledged as a major influence on Canadian painting.

1926      Bill MearnsBill Mearns
After a year at Victoria College, Mearns went to Stanford University for his BA in electrical engineering. He later took post-graduate engineering and business administration at the University of Washington, and an advanced management program at Harvard. He became executive director of BC Hydro and Power Authority and was closely involved in the development of the Peace River Dam and the Superport at Roberts Bank. In Victoria, he was one of a group of businesspeople who pushed for the public purchase of the lands on which the University of Victoria found its home. Recently his family made a significant donation to the university for the Mearns Centre of Learning, a major addition to the McPherson Library.

1926      John Plant John Plant
After Victoria College, John received his mechanical engineering degree at UBC. While an engineering student, had earned his pilot’s wings and joined the RCAF in 1932. In 1939 he was attached to RAF Ferry Command. In 1941 became the officer-in-charge of the Patricia Bay RCAF Station. In 1943 he led his squadron in flights against Germany and other parts of occupied Europe. He received the Air Force Cross in 1945, after he flew two tons of penicillin to Warsaw, Poland. Post-war he gained several senior appointments, to Air Marshal in 1954. Retired in 1956 and became President of Avro Aviation, which was developing an innovative fighter plane. He is a member of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.

1927      James Gibson James Gibson
James received his BA at UBC in 1931 and was named a Rhodes Scholar, leading to a PhD at Oxford. He then became a senior official in the Canada’s department of external affairs, including secretary to Prime Minister McKenzie King. He was a member of the Canadian contingent at the founding conference of the United Nations, at San Francisco in 1945. An early professor at Carleton University, he later professor of history and deputy president. In 1963 he became the first president of Brock University in Ontario.



1930-1934 (top)
1930      Lawrie WallaceLawrie Wallace
Lawrie attended Victoria College and the Provincial Normal School before starting his teaching career in 1933 at the Indian Residential School in Port Alberni. He completed his BA in 1938 and taught high school in Duncan and Victoria. After serving in WW II, earning his master’s of education, he returned to Victoria High School. In 1953, Lawrie became provincial director of community education programs. He subsequently became deputy provincial secretary and was recognized for organizing community projects in BC Centennial celebration of 1958 and 1971. He was deputy premier twice and served as agent-general for BC in London from 1971-80. Queen Elizabeth named him to the Royal Victorian Order. He was considered “the Perfect Provincial Servant.”

1931      Frank Joubin Frank Joubin
After Victoria College, Joubin went to UBC receiving an MA in chemistry in 1943. He worked as a prospector and became Canada’s foremost exploration geologist, with discoveries of gold, copper and, later, uranium. In 1952, he developed a uranium mine at Blind River, Ontario, which, within six years, became the largest in the world. From 1962 to 1980, he was an informal consultant to the United Nations, working in 60 countries in all. He was always an advocate for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, as is reflected in his book Not for Gold Alone.

1931      Frances (Oldham) KelseyFrances Kelsey
After Victoria College Frances (Oldham) Kelsey continued her studies at McGill and completed a PhD in Pharmacology. Soon after joining the US Food and Drug Administration in 1960 she studied the European drug thalidomide and noted children with congenital anomalies of the limbs, whose American mothers had taken thalidomide. On the basis of her work the drug was banned in the United States and many other countries. Her study led to national and international honours. She retired from the FDA in 2005, at the age of 90.

1932       Elza Mayhew (nee Lovitt) Coast Spirit
After Victoria College, received her bachelor’s degree in classics at UBC. She studied drawing and sculpture with Jan Zack and worked as a sculptor in Victoria from 1951. She was one of two artists representing Canada at the Venice Biennial in 1964. A sculpture was commissioned for Expo 67, in Montreal, and a very large “column of sea” completed in 1974 at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown, in honor of her husband, Alan, who died in an Air Force crash in India. Two her sculptures are prominent on the UVic campus: “Bronze Priestess” and “Coast Spirit,” seen in the photo on the right.

1937      Pierre BertonPierre Berton
Berton became of Canada’s best-known journalists, broadcasters, and authors. He produced compelling and popular accounts of Canadian history among the 50 books he wrote. The National Dream (1970) and The Last Spike (1972) covered background and construction of the first national railway. Both books became TV productions that revealed a fascinating insight into the early history of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its key role in the building of Canada. He was also a regular panelist on the popular CBC program, “Front Page Challenge.”

1939       Ian E. McPherson Ian McPherson
Ian served with the RCAF bomber command during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. On his return, he completed a bachelor of law degree at UBC and practiced for several years in Victoria. Ian then took a masters’ degree in aerospace law at McGill. He joined Air Canada in the law department and was later vice-president, law. He was active in the International Air Transport Association and chairman of its law section, the Canadian Bar Association and he co-ordinated official visits to Expo 86.



1935-1939 (top)
1935      R. Ian Ross
Ian RossBeginning in the late 1940s, Ian Ross took charge of the development of the Butchart Gardens, which his grandparents, Robert and Jennie Butchart, had given him as a 21st birthday present in 1939. Under his stewardship, the gardens became known and loved internationally. He was active in community affairs and was a strong supporter of the early development of the University of Victoria. He received the Order of BC in 1990.


1937      Bill Reid Bill Reid
After graduating from UBC, he worked for the CBC for 20 years. He then started designing jewelry professionally using Haida motifs (his mother was Haida) and moved on to woodcarving. He produced the first new totem pole in Skidegate, Queen Charlotte Islands, since the previous century. He is well-known for the massive bronze sculpture at the entrance to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC and the Spirit of Haida Gwaii, Jade Canoe at the Vancouver International Airport.. But Reid felt that his crowning achievement was a traditional Haida canoe for the Musee de l’Homme, in Paris, which he insisted would be delivered up the Seine River by 15 Haida oarsmen.



1940-1946 (top)
1941          Robin Wood Robin Wood
Robin studied piano under Stanley Shale in Victoria until he went on scholarship to the Academy of Music in London, England. He became known as a teacher and concert pianist and was a soloist with many British orchestras. He became professor of music at the academy in 1954. In 1965, he and his wife, Winifred, were invited to come to Victoria, to assist in its new music school. Under their tutelage the school grew quickly and became well known. He performed on CBC and for 25 years had a TV program. In 1995, the Woods were named Honorary Citizens of the City of Victoria and, in 2004, were given Lifetime Achievement Awards by British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor.

1944      John Beckwith
John BeckwithJohn Beckwith completed his training as a pianist and composer at the University of Toronto where he was later the Dean of the Faculty of Music. “A composer of magic eclecticism”, including an opera, “Taptoo”, he also composed a piece for bagpipes, percussion and strings which he said was inspired by the Canadian Scottish pipers in the 24th of May parade in Victoria. A persistent theme in his work is the search for a Canadian voice through music.




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